Thirty surveillance minutes in seconds

April 2014 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to Laurence Smith about the benefits of video synopsis and Briefcam’s latest software.

One of the downsides of video surveillance is having to find specific events when you don’t know the exact time they took place. Traditionally, dealing with scenarios like this would require an operator to sit through hours of video, perhaps fast-forwarding it, in the hopes of catching a specific incident.

Take a normal office scenario as an example. If someone’s laptop is stolen in the middle of a working day with no witnesses, the individual concerned may be able to refine the time of the theft to a 30-minute window of opportunity when the device was left unattended. If the area in which the laptop was left was under video surveillance, the company could comb through the video files and find the event and identify the perpetrator.

If the window of opportunity was longer – overnight for instance – there would be an even longer period of video to scour to find the incident. Briefcam, distributed in South Africa by Graphic Image Technologies (GIT), solves the time problem with its video synopsis software.

According to Laurence Smith, director at GIT, Briefcam’s video synopsis software takes the video footage over a long period of time and condenses it to a few minutes, while still incorporating all the activity that happened over the full period. It does this by presenting multiple objects and activities simultaneously, time-stamping each according to the time they occurred – basically creating an Index of the full period under observation (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

When an event of interest is found, the user simply selects it and is taken back to the original video when the incident occurred (Figure 2). This allows the company in our example, to view everyone who walked past the laptop during the window of opportunity and quickly identify the thief.

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Filtering the index

The latest version of Briefcam’s software goes further. Smith says the new software also allows users to filter their synopsis to focus in on certain details, attributes such as size, colour, speed, direction and location within the video frame. It also allows users to search according to a ‘similar to this’ function. The company says this allows one to search by hard-to-define issues for those ‘I’ll know it when I see it’ events.

Figure 3.
Figure 3.

Figure 3 is a view of a condensed video. In Figure 4, we see the user searching with the red filter; in other words, the software only shows items of interest that are red. In Figure 5, we see the blue filter on the same video.

Figure 4.
Figure 4.

Figure 5.
Figure 5.

A real-world example of video synopsis in action was seen after the Boston Marathon bomb attack in April 2013. The authorities collected all the video footage of the event they could find, both CCTV footage as well as cellphone footage witnesses captured. They then condensed four hours of video into a 12-minute synopsis and were able to quickly identify the perpetrators.

Most uses of the Briefcam software would not be as traumatic, but the ability to condense large amounts of video into a short synopses cuts the time wasted searching for specific events dramatically, allowing operators to focus on the events that matter instead of staring blankly at a screen.

For more information contact Graphic Image Technologies, +27 (0)11 483 0333,,


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